A Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request by Enterasys Networks, the provider of wired and wireless network infrastructure and security solutions, has found that almost two-thirds (64%) of National Health Service (NHS) trusts in the UK still don’t offer Wi-Fi to patients while they recuperate in a hospital bed.
Instead, most patients still have to rely on expensive outsourced bedside TV/Internet/Phone systems that have long been recognised as cost prohibitive for patients, often costing £10 or more a day. As a result, many patients can feel disconnected from family and friends during their recuperative period.
Harley Street psychotherapist, Jennifer Dew MSc Psych, Dip Psch (couns), MBACP (accred) argues that patients who can regularly access family and friends using personal devices while they recuperate suffer less from isolation and loneliness and are more likely to make a speedier recovery.
Dew said: ‘It’s important for patients to easily communicate with their loved ones from their hospital bed – and using their own device is by far the easiest option for them. If access to Wi-Fi helps to make some patients get better sooner, what’s not to like?’
As government budgets are being squeezed further, NHS Trusts are being urged to reduce patients’ length of stay (LoS) to save money. According to the Department of Health, the average day bed cost in the UK is £400.
The survey of 78 acute NHS trusts also found that the lack of Wi-Fi being offered to patients extended to NHS staff. 82% of NHS Trusts don’t permit staff to connect personal devices to the hospital Wi-Fi network. Meanwhile, just 10% of NHS Trusts have a formal BYOD policy for staff in place today.
Mark Pearce, strategic alliance director at Enterasys Networks said: ‘There are so many ways that W-Fi can be used to benefit patients as well as staff in the healthcare sector, yet it’s one of the slowest to seize the opportunity that BYOD offers. The public has a growing appetite to be connected, and the technology is there to make it happen securely, safely and reliably.’
Pearce believes that if the UK Government really wants to invest in and improve the NHS, incentivising trusts to open their Wi-Fi networks and expand connectivity is an inexpensive way to make a huge difference to each and every patient experience.
He concluded: ‘The key to making this a success would be a robust strategy for hospitals to allow mobile devices to connect safely and securely – a bring your own device (BYOD) policy.’
In contrast to many NHS Trust, the Walton Centre NHS Foundation Trust is leading the way in the move to offer Wi-Fi to patients. Its intensive care patients are using specially adapted iPads to keep in touch with their families (pictured).